Manchester City’s perennial success in the last decade has, according to their critics, been a mere product of their foreign owners’ inexhaustible wealth and financial strong-hold. This notion has, throughout the years, trivialised and belittled the record-breaking achievements which have transformed them into one of world football’s most predominant superpowers. While there is no arguing that Middle-Eastern riches have uplifted the Manchester City cause, the club represents a lot more than just monetary muscle.
In the last decade or so, teams rivalling Manchester City have always seen marquee members of their squad leave for exorbitant prices. The Manchester giants have, however, managed to shield and protect their most precious gems.
It is impossible to believe that the likes of Sergio Aguero, Vincent Kompany and Yaya Toure did not have mouth-watering offers from Europe’s most elite clubs during their stints at the Etihad. The truth is that they have remained faithful to their club and this loyalty has helped them leave a significant mark on English football as three of its greatest foreign imports. There is one player, however, who was destined for even greater honours back in his home country and has surprised many when he pledged his career to Manchester City.
The introduction of David Silva to the Premier League
Born in the small streets of Arguineguin in the Canary Islands, David Silva has gone on to become one of the most decorated Spaniards in footballing history. After eye-catching loan spells at Eibar and Celta Vigo, the diminutive midfielder returned to his parent club Valencia and led them to Copa del Rey glory alongside notable compatriots like David Villa, Jordi Alba and Juan Mata before Roberto Mancini made him the face of the Manchester City renaissance.
However, the Citizens’ £25-million signing was not touted to thrive in the Premier League. Many pundits and fans claimed that his stature, skillset and style of play was not adept for the physical demands of the English game.
David Silva was a textbook Spanish midfielder known for his immaculate passing, spatial intelligence and low centre of gravity. His attributes were tailor-made for the Barcelona tiki-taka which was at its peak under Pep Guardiola in the early 2010s.
But while many questioned his capabilities to perform in the Premier League, David Silva not only hushed his doubters but went on to epitomise the attacking midfield role altogether during a dazzling decade at the Etihad.
From the offset, David Silva became the heartbeat of Mancini’s team as he always found wriggling out of spaces and was adept at creating chances and scoring goals. He would almost glide onto the surface with the ball glued to his feet, spraying passes and dictating play at will.
David Silva was a master puppeteer as he single-handedly ran the show for Manchester City. It did not matter if the Italian manager deployed him out wide or in the trequartista role, he was the fulcrum of every attack and his silky movements, clever distribution and close control would be impossible for opponents to decipher.
In his debut campaign, David Silva was integral in ending the club’s 35-year trophy wait as they lifted the FA Cup against all odds. In the following season, he went on to provide an unrivalled 15 league assists as Manchester City lifted their first-ever English top-flight trophy in the modern era. As a reward, he was rightly named in the prestigious PFA Team of the Year and was handed the Manchester City Players' Player of the Year accolade.
He went on to play a staggering eight more seasons at the club, winning three additional Championship medals, another FA Cup, five League Cups and three Community Shields during this time.
Statistics, however, do not tell the whole story when it comes to David Silva. Only fans who have been watching him week-in and week-out will truly understand how relentlessly good he is. While many feel his tally of 74 goals in over 400 appearances is not the most impressive number when it comes to an attack-minded player, his 90 league assists still make him the 7th-highest assist provider in Premier League history, above the likes of David Beckham.
The Spaniard has played crucial roles in each of Manchester City’s title victories and multiple domestic cup successes, contributions which cannot be measured in numbers.
The evolution of David Silva
David Silva has thrived under all three managers during his Manchester City career. For Mancini, he was the catalyst in remodelling the club’s footballing philosophy into a free-flowing, attacking culture. Manuel Pellegrini called him a “gift to English football” as he unlocked the midfielder's potential in an advanced, floating role.
However, it was Pep Guardiola who took David Silva to the next level, converting him into a dynamic central midfielder who was as important in the final third as he was in defensive areas. We might not see him hovering on the left side anymore but the Catalan manager is confident that Phil Foden will remind us of his legacy.
Internationally, David Silva played a restricted role in Spain’s 2008 Euro and 2010 World Cup accomplishments but he was still pivotal to the team’s defence of their European crown in 2012. His consistency and versatility made him an indispensable figure of the Spanish Golden Generation, but he could never gain the godly devotion of fellow countrymen Andres Iniesta and Xavi.
Silva is his country’s sixth-highest capped player, fourth-highest goalscorer and second-highest assist-provider. He has been trusted on the wings as a false nine, as an attacking midfielder and even as a deep-lying playmaker and has constantly delivered in both small-scale competitions and heavyweight tournaments.
David Silva: A quiet maestro
Perhaps, David Silva's misconstrued reputation is because he does not have many iconic moments that define his career. He has neither produced match-winning performances in the deepest Champions League ties nor has he scored an extra-time winner in a World Cup final. He has never played for Barcelona or Real Madrid, a place where every little boy from Spain grows up fantasising about. Instead, he chose to make his name more than a thousand miles away in Manchester’s splitting weather.
David Silva’s journey from being just another outlandish player to almost becoming synonymous to the term Manchester City is little appreciated around the world. This is probably because he is not the most talkative nor the most vocal player in football. His public profile has always been under wraps and his whereabouts were often unknown. And although he was deservedly handed the captain’s armband at the start of his final season, he is not really a commander-in-chief. However, it is his selfless demeanour and unassuming personality that has always been admired by his most ardent followers.
David Silva: The Manchester City legend
Manchester City fans will surely need pillows when the news of his departure materialises, knowing very well that their beloved ‘Merlin’ could have already played his last game for the club. Ironically, it would be a fitting end for the Spaniard, who would likely have preferred to quietly depart in the shadows rather than face the light of the world.
Manchester City’s legendary forward from the 60s and 70s and now club ambassador Mike Summerbee once described David Silva as the greatest ever to don the blue shirt. And although he may never be as recognised as Xavi or Iniesta, his genius will never be forgotten. He was a worshipper of the beautiful game, a champion of many lands and nations, and above all, he was a magician.